Practice report: Defense. 9/18/2012

After a big-time win against Southern Miss, the Pirates have their sights on the North Carolina Tarheels.At practice I had an opportunity to talk to defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell along with some of the impact players on the defensive side of the ball: Joshua Hawkins, Montese Overton, and Jeremy Grove.

Brian Mitchell

-On the play of the defense against USM- "I give all the credit to the kids, they persevered. We knew going into Hattiesburg that it was going to be a grind and that it was going to take sixty minutes and four quarters and our kids executed calls and made plays that we're teaching them each and every day".

-Keys to stopping the UNC offense- "It's going to take execution and with that execution, leverage to the ball. It doesn't matter if it's a run play or a pass going down the field, make sure we leverage all the deep balls and make them earn every yard and execute down the field."

-Adjustments for the secondary against potent Tarheel passing attack- "We're not going to change anything we do."

-Familiarity with UNC head coach Larry Fedora- "Some of those intangibles you try to find throughout the week, we know, because we faced Larry since the Big 12 when he was with Oklahoma State. There is some familiarity there but some of our kids are getting out there and seeing them for the first time. We need to try and make sure we pass that knowledge onto them in the classroom so they can take with them on the field."

Joshua Hawkins

-On interception in USM game: "No. 2 just tipped it up and I caught it. I don't know how I stepped out of bounds but I was excited and my team was happy for me."

-Hawkins on his approach as a walk-on: "I still push it. I still don't have a scholarship yet. If it happens, it happens and if it doesn't, it doesn't. I'm just trying to be a Pirate honest. I did a lot to get here and I'm one blessed individual to be honest. I'm proud to be here and I'm going to keep working for my team. It's not about me, it's about us."

-When talking about UNC wide receivers: "(UNC) definitely has some big guys. They can run a little better than Southern Miss but it's nothing we haven't seen already so we'll prepare for that."

Montese Overton

-Response to extra attention: "It's nothing new that I (wasn't) used to in high school. But it's at a college level, so it's a great experience."

-On teammate's reaction to him appearing to drop ball before crossing goal-line on fumble return for a touchdown: "They hounded me all day after the game, on the plane, on the bus ride back. They probably won't let it go until next year. Next time, I'm going to put the ball in front of me and make sure I get into the endzone with the ball too."

-On returning from concussion and experiencing success: "It's a dream come true. I never thought I would come to this level and actually perform the way I am. I'm very blessed."

-Adjustments to be made defensively for UNC:"We need to attack the front line. We need to worry about the zone read and the wide receivers to help our corners and safeties. Other than that, if we can shut down the wide receivers and the zone read, I think we can beat them."

Jeremy Grove

-On Southern Miss game: It was a huge win for us. We always want to start our conference game strong. It was an important win for us."

-Comments on the play of the defense: I think (we played well) all around. We got to the ball, our coverage was good, we swarmed to the ball, our special teams played well, I think that was key."

-Importance of UNC game- "It's huge. In-state game that we have lost the past three (against), we'd like to go in there and get the job done."

-Adjustments that need to be made- "They have got a lot of athletes on the line and a great quarterback but we're just going to play our game, play our defense, swarm to the ball, and really don't have much to change up".

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